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Pillowy Soft Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls + Giveaway

by Kristina Gill

I have a little tagging contest with a friend on Instagram to see who can tag chocolate chip cookies first. Over time, I felt like the competition was extremely one-sided because chocolate chip cookies are my friend’s obsession, not mine. I am obsessed with cinnamon rolls of all types, so now we race to tag cookies and cinnamon rolls. These Ultimate Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls made with sweet potato dough from freelance food editor and chef Mary-Frances Heck’s new book Sweet Potatoes: Roasted, Loaded, Fried, and Made into Pie caught my eye, and I couldn’t pass up sharing the recipe with you. I like to post longer recipes right before the holidays because that’s when I spend more time in the kitchen working on special recipes. As long as you’re patient and methodical, you’ll be handsomely rewarded! Just be sure to read the recipe carefully through to the end before starting. (And why not try sweet potato cinnamon rolls for Thanksgiving instead of pie?!) —Kristina

To win a copy of Sweet Potatoes: Roasted, Loaded, Fried, and Made into Pie, leave an answer in the comments section below: What’s your favorite way to eat sweet potatoes? (or the most memorable sweet potato dish you’ve eaten).

About Mary-Frances: Mary-Frances Heck is a food writer, recipe developer, and chef. She was the former test kitchen director at Bon Appétit, and her editorial work has appeared in numerous magazines, including Lucky Peach, Saveur, Cooking Light, Rachael Ray Every Day, Redbook, Rodale’s Organic Life, Fitness, Self, and Shape. Her recipes and writing have appeared in many cookbooks, including Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes, The Wurst of Lucky Peach, Lucky Peach Presents Power Vegetables!, All About Eggs, and Justin Smillie’s Slow Fires. Find Mary-Frances on Instagram @maryfrancesheck.

{Photography by Kristin Teig}

Image above: Ultimate Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

Image above: Mary-Frances Heck

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Ultimate Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls

Make a batch of Sweet Potato Milk Bread Dough (below) on the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving or any big celebratory weekend. Shape half of the dough into the Pull-Apart Dinner Rolls  for a dinner centerpiece, and use the other half to prep these cinnamon rolls to serve for breakfast the next morning. No hangover can resist the power of cream cheese frosting, I promise.

Makes 9 Rolls


  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) very soft unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • ½ recipe Sweet Potato Milk Bread Dough (recipe follows), at room temperature
  • Neutral oil or butter, for the work surface
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • Icing
  • 6 tablespoons cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sweet Potato Milk Bread Dough
  • 1 cup whole milk, warmed, plus more for brushing
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 2¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (¼-ounce envelope)
  • 1½ cups Sweet Potato Puree* (start with 1 pound orange-fleshed sweet potatoes)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the bowl and the pans
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 6 cups (27 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting



Butter a 9-inch square cake pan. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.


Put the dough on a lightly oiled work surface and pat it into a rectangle with a long side near you. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a rectangle that is about 18 × 12 inches and ¼ inch thick; it is more important that the dough be ¼ inch thick than an exact-size rectangle.


In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon. Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the soft butter in a thin, even layer over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture over the butter.


Beginning with the long side nearest you, lift up the edge of the dough and roll it away from you into a tight coil. Pinch the edge to seal, and then place the roll on the prepared baking sheet. Pop it into the freezer for 10 minutes.


Using a long serrated knife, cut the chilled log of dough into 2-inch-thick rounds. Arrange the rounds, cut-side up, in the prepared cake pan, snuggling them together as needed. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap. Proof the dough at room temperature until puffy, 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Alternatively, let it proof slowly in the refrigerator overnight. Let the dough come to room temperature before baking.)


Preheat the oven to 350°F.


Make the icing: In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and beat again until smooth and fluffy, about 1 minute. Icing can be kept at room temperature for up to 1 hour; cover and chill for up to 3 days.


Bake the rolls until golden and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately spread the rolls with the icing. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before eating. Serve warm or at room temperature.


TIP: Make extra and freeze them: Shape the cinnamon rolls and arrange them 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until frozen solid, then transfer to a gallon-size plastic zip-top bag. The day before baking, arrange them in a buttered 9-inch square cake pan, cover with plastic wrap, and defrost in the fridge. Let stand at room temperature until puffy, about 2 hours, before baking as instructed.


To make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, gently stir together the 1 cup warm milk, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the yeast. Let stand until the mixture becomes foamy, about 5 minutes.


Add the sweet potato puree (*click link for puree recipe), the remaining 4 tablespoons sugar, the eggs, butter, and salt to the yeast mixture. Fit the machine with the hook attachment and mix the ingredients on low speed until smooth, about 1 minute. With the machine running, add the flour, 1 cup at a time. When all of the flour has been added, increase the speed to medium and knead the dough until it is silky smooth, about 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth, soft, and a little sticky. (Alternatively, to make the dough by hand, whisk the sweet potato, the remaining 4 tablespoons sugar, the eggs, butter, and salt into the yeast mixture until smooth. Place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the sweet potato mixture into the well and begin incorporating the flour with a wooden spoon. Continue stirring until the dough is too stiff to mix with the spoon. Lightly butter your hands and knead the dough in the bowl until it is smooth, about 10 minutes.)


Brush a large, clean bowl with some melted butter. Shape the dough into a ball and set it in the bowl, seam-side down. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until almost doubled in volume, about 1 hour. Punch the dough down and use immediately or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.


TIP: You’ll notice that the flour amounts are given in both volume and weight. Measuring either way is fine, but I find that, when baking, knowing the weight of flour is helpful, since it is a more accurate measurement.

Reprinted from Sweet Potatoes. Copyright © 2017 by Mary-Frances Heck. Photographs copyright © 2017 by Kristin Teig. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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  • i love the simplicity of a plain fire roasted sweet potatoe..the smokiness from the coal adds so much flavour to the sweetness of the spud

  • Ooh! These cinnamon rolls look amazing! My favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is to turn them into gnocchi and serve with shaved brussels, brown butter, sage and pecorino. It’s the only kind of gnocchi I’ve managed to make successfully!

  • I love making them into noodles, and mixing them with goat cheese, artichokes and sun-dried tomatoes.

  • I love making sweet potato hash, seasoned with cumin and smoked paprika, and topped with caramelized onions, kale, and a sunyside up egg. It’s perfect for any meal, breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

  • Sweet potato fries or sweet potato crusted quiche! So delicious! Though these sweet potato cinnamon rolls may be my new favorite way to eat them.

  • There’s a restaurant in my town that makes homemade sweet potato tater tots. They are my favorite! (I’m not fancy lol)

  • In Manhattan they sold sweet potatoes and chestnuts cooked on grills right out in the street heaven,My parents would buy each of us a sweet potato @0& a bag of chestnuts the most delicious treat.

  • Sweet potato tots with spicy ketchup. Mmmm- I have to make these cinnamon buns for Christmas morning now!

  • I love my mom’s caramelized sweet potatoes she always makes for Thanksgiving. I’m pretty sure they’re just sweet potatoes coated in brown sugar/butter and then cooked on the stovetop. I’ve yet to ask her for the recipe because I don’t think I could do them justice and it’d probably be dangerous for my health.

  • I love baked sweet potatoes with a miso ginger sauce. Simple and yummy!
    Thanks for the giveaway.

  • I would have to say my favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is fries. I recently made a sweet potato pie (with marshmallow topping!) for the first time and it was a huge hit. This post is making me seriously hungry.

  • I like them roasted and diced-up, then sweetened with a bit of honey. Sometimes drop the diced-up pieces into a green salad

  • My favorite way to make sweet potatoes is the ONLY away I’ve ever made them (marshmallows on top, which quickly start on fire after I turn on the broiler and look away), which is a definite sign that I need to buy this cookbook!!! :)

  • These rolls look and sound amazing. I’m going to try them with gluten free flour for my daughter w Celiac! My favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is homemade sweet potato chips!!! YUM!!

  • ooh how do i choose? probably roasted with brussel sprouts. so good. but my southern sweet potato casserole (covered in brown sugar, butter and pecans) is ridiculously delicious and a favorite on thanksgiving:)

  • The most memorable would have to be the completely unhealthy sweet potatoes with brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and marshmallows, because it was what we ate during so very many long ago extended family meals.

  • my Mom cooked sweet potatoes in their skins and left them to cool overnight, they would next be skinned and thickly sliced, put into a cast iron pan with butter and fried until golden, season with salt and pepper YUM… they were and always are the first thing on my plate (and in my mouth) on Thanksgiving Day (following in my Mom’s footsteps, I prepare them the exact same way :) am definitely going to try these sweet potato cinnamon rolls, they look delicious! Happy Thanksgiving :)

  • Happy Thanksgiving! I love baked sweet potatoes. They come out so soft, and with a touch of butter, are absolutely delicious!

  • We have always had, for any holiday, sweet potatoes mashed with brown sugar and butter and marshmallows on top and then broiled to toast the marshmallows. I can sometimes sneak in a little bourbon or wine and pecans if I’m lucky.

  • This recipe looks amazing!! One of my favorite quick ways to make a sweet potato dish is to microwave one for a few minutes, then mash it up with some butter and berbere. It’s easy and delicious!

  • I love Praline Sweet Potatoes. SO delicious they could be dessert. Will definitely make the Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls for a nice change of pace from my regular plain Cinnamon Rolls.

  • My Grandma had two stoves in her kitchen – one was electric for the summer, the other, a wood cooking stove for the rest of the year. The only snack the grandchildren were allowed were small baked sweet potatoes in their skins-from the warming area of the wood stove. She grew her own sweet potato crop every year. Nice memories from the country in Virginia.

  • I would love this cookbook! I am making a sweet potato creme brûlée tonight actually! Haven’t tried it yet but I bet it’s good!

  • I fell in love with “yaki-imo” in Japan, which are sweet potatoes wrapped in foil and buried in coals and roasted. You peel the foil in the round as you work your way through the potato. After a day of skiing, it warms your hands as you hold it, and warms you from the inside out as you eat it. Heavenly.

  • Cut into wedges and roasted at high heat so they’re pillowy soft inside and caramelized outside then topped with almond butter and sea salt

  • My grandma made a pureed sweet pot casseole with a crunchy pecan , brown sugar , maple syrup & crunchy bacon topping !!!
    The best thing ever !

  • My favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is in the form oven roasted fries. I coat them with a thin layer of olive oil and season with cinnamon, cayenne and rosemary. When they’re done I drizzle on a bit of honey! Truly simple, yet delightful!

  • I love to use sweet potatoes to make a hash – jalapenos, sweet potatoes, and onions make for such a yummy side dish!

  • Sweet potatoes any way…but probably roasted chunks are my fave! These rolls look divine!

  • I made roasted sweet potatoes with carrots, pecans, and grated finger this thanksgiving. Scrumptious!

  • My kids, now both grown, and I, make my Mom’s sweet potato souffle every year for Thanksgiving, and although I enjoy the sweet potato dishes other folks make, I enjoy Mom’s the most. What sets it apart is that other than the roasted sweet potatoes that are mashed with whole cream, eggs, brown sugar and a touch of salt, the dominant flavor is that of freshly grated nutmeg. I’d enjoy this cookbook!

  • These look delicious! I can’t wait to try to bake them during Christmas.
    Sweet potatoes are one of my favourite food ever so I will try my luck with this interesting cookbook :) My favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is to roast them with a bit of salt, they’re that good!

  • The best I’ve eaten were fries with a spicy mayo dip – wonderful. They aren’t traditional in our area, so I’ll be trying this recipe, and would love a chance at the book for more. Thanks!

  • This might be my NEW favorite way to eat sweet potatoes, eager to try. For now, it’s in a salad with umeboshi plum vinegar, spices, and a touch of mayo. It sounds strange, but it’s a fireworks finale of flavor in your mouth!

  • I’m partial to sweet potato fries, but my absolute favorite is just a baked sweet potato with BBQ Chicken, Green Onions and Sour Cream!

  • I live in the south so we have sweet potato pie that is delicious, but I love sweet potatoes cooked in stews, roasted, microwaved and have a parrot who shares them with me! The cinnamon roll recipe is so tempting, I shall try it this week! Thank you

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  • I usually cut them up like french fries & bake them. My daughters eat them this way & don’t complain which is great! I would love to try some new recipes & these cinnamon rolls look delicious!

  • Honestly I just love them peeled and baked and drizzled with oil with a dash of sea salt and fresh ground pepper

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  • I love to make sweet potato recipes for my toddler – maple/oat sweet potato muffins and sweet potato pancakes. For me, I mainly make sweet potato oven fries, but I would love more recipes which is why I hope to win this book! I buy sweet potatoes in bulk at the farmer’s market and we always have plenty stored in the basement.

  • This cinnamon roll recipe looks delicious. I love to dice and roast sweet potatoes in olive oil with a little salt and thyme. I toss them in salads. Yum!

  • Honestly had no idea you can do this with sweet potatoes, I bet these taste as good as they look! I’m a roasting man, personally, finely chop and blast them in heat with nothing more than salt and pepper.

  • A very interesting recipe to try, with the sweet potato twist included into the bread dough. And what better way to top it off than with cream cheese and cinnamon. I am sure it will be a favorite at the dinner table.

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  • From a Jamaican friend I learned how to up the flavor of baked sweet potatoes. Mash baked sweet potatoes while in the shell with butter and a generous amount of fresh lime juice. Sprinkle with ground hot chili pepper. Delicious!